Every reader has a different criteria for what makes a book “great.” For me, it’s simple – would I recommend it to a friend? Did it surprise me, engage me, make me think? Here are my personal favourite novels of 2012.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn. I don’t typically read mysteries but this one took sounded intriguing. A bit slow to start it gradually unspools into an utterly demented, psychotic, brilliant twisty story with an ending that will have you talking. Just when you think it can’t get any stranger … oh it does. It’s one of those books that after you finish it you HAVE to talk to someone about it.
Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walters. A big, sometimes messy cast of characters spanning the making of Cleopatra and an obscure Italian villa in the 1950s, modern day Hollywood, numerous stops in between and a wonderfully happy ending. In the hands of a lesser writer this book could have been an over ambitious disaster but Jess Walters is truly gifted. It is a delicious novel at its highest form and you won’t be disappointed. Also one of my favourite book covers – gorgeous!
Every Day – David Levithan. Each morning teenager “A” wakes up in a different body and the rule is don’t disrupt, don’t get attached, keep things simple. And then “A” meets someone and falls in love. What seems like a plot gimmick for a Young Adult book is instead a very adult look at the meaning of self, how we love and why. What makes you … you? A bit heavy on the stereotypes at times nonetheless it is a very thought-provoking book for any age
Succession – Douglas Schofield. An action movie in book form, so descriptive you find yourself casting the leads while you read! There’s poisonings, attempted murder, kidnapping, high tech spy gadgets and a secret royal wedding – and, of course, a love story as well. All set against a little known fact/rumour concerning the British monarchy. Schofield draws you into the story and next thing you know – you’re late for dinner. Excellently written, fun to read and impossible to put down.
City of Women – David Gillham. A “proper” German soldier’s wife, ignoring the horrors of the Nazi regime until she falls in love with a Jewish man. The characters in this deeply disturbing tale are not likeable, and they behave in ways that are socially and morally not acceptable. But set against the backdrop of World War II the lines between what is “right’ and what is “wrong” slowly disappear and become “good or bad” and eventually “life or death.”
Sweet Tooth – Ian McEwan. Set in England in 1972, a beautiful, literary young woman is recruited to join the MIA and work undercover. One of the best character-driven novels I’ve read all year, even the secondary players are fully realised. McEwan gets inside them and finds what makes them “tick.” It’s a spy novel. It’s a love story. It’s a story within a story within a story. Just when you think you know where it’s going … oh boy are you wrong!
Heading Out to Wonderful – Robert Goolrick. A handsome young man arrives in a sleepy town in the 1940s. He falls in love with the beautiful young bride of the town’s wealthiest man. Never a good idea. A dark, deep, emotionally gripping novel about obsession and its far reaching consequences with an ending that is like a punch in the gut.
Pushing the Limits – Katie McGarry. Another YA story that speaks to a greater audience. Good girl with dark secrets meets bad boy with his own issues. As we learn their histories we fall in love with them long before they fall for each other. A lovely change from the typical vampire/dystopian novels, well-written and with a satisfying ending that makes you wish for a sequel to this solid debut.
Before I Go To Sleep – AJ Watson. Healthy young woman has amnesia, and every day must rely on her husband to reconstruct her life for her. Until she goes to sleep – then everything is wiped clean. At the urging of a psychiatrist she starts to keep a journal and one day sees written – don’t trust your husband – in her writing. Who can she trust, when she can’t remember from one day to the next who is protecting her and who is out to harm her? A chilling page turner of a book.
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures – Emma Straub. Small town girl marries boy, moves to Hollywood so he can pursue his fame and fortune. But what happens when she is the one “discovered”? What choices are made – love or fame, and later on – family or career? A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the Old Hollywood system and how it worshiped those who achieved stardom, and abandoned those who failed.
Megan McCluskey moved to Cayman in January 2012 from New Jersey. A life-long reader and admitted book geek she is also a proud mom, pop culture junkie and die-hard fan of the New Jersey Devils. Megan can be found in-person at Books & Books in Camana Bay, online at [email protected] and every Sunday in a hammock with a good book or three.